My commute had taken an absolutely frightening turn upon the realization that a mentally unstable, skateboard-wielding homeless had boarded the SkyTrain at some point during the trip. The fact that Translink had failed to enforce sufficient security on the train was evident as the filth-covered man hiked up and down the aisles with cardboard signage, requesting funds to continue sustaining his current lifestyle.
All was peaceful until the brief moment between King Edward and Broadway City Hall. While travelling through the quietest point of the underground tunnel, the man suddenly broke down. He began yelling and swearing (at who knows what), and even began throwing things. Given that he was standing no further than 2 metres from me in diagonal distance, I was thoroughly experiencing shivers each time his tantrums escalated in severity. No one had dared to budge even an inch from their original positions.
It was also of extreme concern to me that he was blocking my closest exit and that I would need to disembark at the next station. In fear that he was going to lash out at the first person he saw move, I scurried to next closest platform door as rapidly as possible once I caught a glimpse of his head being turned away from my direction. Running up the stairs and through the fare gates, I made sure to not turn back until I had safely made my exit. Phew.
If there's any aspect of a proper public transportation service that Translink executes correctly, it's definitely not passenger safety and security. Never had I felt such immense vulnerability in my life while commuting.
We wanted to shift our focus elsewhere, preferably to food in the nearby area.
Alas, I hadn't realized that I forgotten my SD card in the slot reader of my laptop until we found ourselves at the storefront. My friend was kind, not even minding to trek an extra few blocks to Broadway Camera with me to purchase a backup card.
My dining partner-in-crime, knowing me to be the "planner" type, had bestowed me with complete control of the day's munching locations. I had decided upon Benkei Ramen for lunch, with the main reason being that the greatness of their Gyoza and Chashu Onigiri had remained vivid in one of my distant memories.
Service was also several notches less friendly than I recall. Even during the lunch rush, a loud Japanese "Welcome!" soared over the voices of hungry customers at their old Thurlow spot. But this wasn't the case here at all: even waitresses had rather unenthusiastic demeanours when taking orders.
Interestingly enough, Benkei's steamy bowls of ramen had never been my top choice even when on previous Vancouver visits. Perhaps the portion size was just too large for my liking, or perhaps I had never found a distinguishable enough element to persuade me to trying it again. Regardless, the sole bowl of ramen on our table - Shio (or "sea salt") - wasn't particularly fascinating. Bamboo shoots, green onions, half-cooked bean sprouts, and two tender pieces of ramen chashu floated atop the murky beige broth, all of which were toppings that retained their individual flavours well. With the exception that the chashu was nowhere near Santouka's toroniku, I enjoyed them, but not to an immense degree.
The disappointment actually lay in the ramen base itself: a lacklustre broth and limp, not-so-springy noodles was a poor combination.
It brought me great sadness to conclude that neither was executed to the quality that I had recalled.
Even after several rounds of ramen house-hopping, it seems that Hakata remains undefeated, in terms of gyoza anyway.
But it was hidden right in the parking lot of the Real Canadian Superstore. Nestled between layers of dust bunny-esque insulation and neighbouring dry cleaning shops was an awkwardly situated diner with a flickering black and white sign.
Despite the shabby choice of location, neither drinks nor egg waffles were particularly affordable here. Custom creation waffles were ever-so-costly at $8.00, while all beverages were priced at a minimum of five dollar before tax. (Yikes!)
Beside this counter was a glass case filled with emoji pillows (for sale?), then an old-fashioned arcade machine. Directly adjacent to this piece of ancient equipment was the bathroom: a poorly-lit single stall with an absence of hooks and abundance of filth. An ominous cloud hung in the air. "Could it get any worse?" I thought.
In all fairness, the drink wasn't bad at all. Icy and refreshing, the sealed plastic cup provided the two elements deemed necessary after an afternoon of walking in the sun. I suppose it wasn't until the I spotted my friend's receipt that I gradually became bitter.
To make matters worse, I later realized that my fault at failing to specify an amount of ice in my drink: exactly one third of the cup was filled with ice!
I mean, the location was already horrid enough. The spot is inconvenient for commuters, and even worse for drivers due to a lack of parking spots.
Continuing reading about Snowy Village in Part 2!